Every year on the last weekend in September, one of my favorite road trip nurseries hangs the works of local quilters throughout its grounds and welcomes quilters and gardeners alike for a weekend of shopping, classes and special exhibits.
Alden Lane Nursery in Livermore, California is a family owned full service garden center established in 1955 on a parcel of land home to dozens of majestic Valley oaks (Quercus lobata.) Once in the countryside, it is now surrounded by town and takes its role in this small community seriously, sponsoring many weekends of seasonal activities every year.
Alden Lane’s gift shops, houseplants and administrative offices are housed in a beautiful residence like structure with a Country French vibe–offering lots of “yard” spaces to introduce planting schemes. I had always assumed this to have been an original home on the property but learned on this trip that despite the building’s vintage feel, it was built only 20 years ago.
As you can clearly see, on this morning it was slightly overcast and very windy. The main nursery entrance is decorated with colorful quilts and seasonal pumpkins. The addition of huge swathes of dappled shade from the centuries old oaks made photography challenging.
If you could line up the far left of the top photo with the far right of the bottom photo you would have the full expanse of this oak branch which lies close to the ground. I can imagine having this unbelievable living sculpture as part of my garden would become a quiet place to sit in the shade and a magical climbing structure for anyone over 2 and under 90.
Despite bring pretty windblown and wishing I had brought more than a lightweight jacket, I spent a couple of hours wandering the grounds taking in the more than 250 fabric works of art ruffling in the breezes.
Alden Lane Nursery’s website http://www.aldenlane.com is full of information about upcoming events including October 12 & 13th’s Fall Festival. Their associated blog posts offer seasonal gardens tips and a useful monthly garden checklist. I am sure you will enjoy the wealth of gardening resources Alden Lane provides!
Fall can be sort of a moving target in California’s Central Valley. Some years we pull out our hoodies in mid-October and others find us Christmas tree shopping in shorts. We are not without seasons–just not sure when to expect them to change throughout the year!
Whenever it gets here, fall is my favorite season in the garden. It is certainly not the most attractive as many plants, even those not naturally winding down their seasons due to shorter days and longer nights, look pretty peaked from the ravages of the hot and dry summer. Fall is the season symbolizing another year of work well done in the garden with a little time for reflection, planning and rest on the horizon. Our short, relatively mild winters make attention to the garden in fall even more critical.
This year our spring was cooler, longer and wetter than average and the summer days in the triple digits were fewer than many years–all in all a summer worthy of rejoicing. That being said, as I write this post temps for the next few days range from 89° to 98° with a definite cooling trend into the 70s at week’s end. The last couple of weeks we have had cooler early mornings well suited to getting going on fall garden tasks and some light winds which seem to have made the mosquitoes less active–always a plus.
Last year every available gardening minute from September through the end of the year was devoted to the last phase of the front garden’s lawn removal/bed replanting effort. The back garden was left to fend for itself–roses were never pruned, perennials not cut back, winter annual weed pre-emergent never scattered, and humsy mulch never refreshed. I think you get the picture…
Like the 5 year old who feels neglected amidst the excitement of a new baby in the house, my back garden has both pouted and gone wild. It’s time to get back to a more normal rhythm for both gardens and see what can be refreshed (or just plain salvaged) in hopes that after a little winter’s nap it will reward me with another year of fresh foliage or bright blooms.
First on my hit list are the vigorous clumps of Viola ‘Royal Robe’ which have all but taken over the shade bed adjacent the back patio. Below you see some of the smaller clumps nestled up against Helleborus x hybridus ‘Double Queen’ and Geranium ‘Brookside’
The hellebores can hold their own against this thug but many of the bed’s less substantial ground covers like the lime green foliaged Campanula ‘Dickson’s Gold’ are all but lost. Don’t get me wrong–I love the violets. I generally thin them drastically in the early fall as they are ready to reseed with the goal of keeping enough in the bed to enjoy the flowers without them turning into the playground bully. Without last year’s thinning, they reseeded prolifically and just about every open space in the long bed looked just like the above photo.
It took me about 9 hours spread over several days to dig out every clump, large and small, figuring there was enough seed already dropped to have gracious plenty come back next year. Each one of the seed pods forming at the base of the plant contains dozens of seeds and I swear every single one germinates in this bed which stays relatively cool and moist. The clumps, even with the dirt shaken off the roots, filled almost four trash cans.
I also trimmed back the sun scorched maidenhair ferns, cleaned up the iris foliage, trimmed off any hellebore foliage with snail damage and pulled off all but the freshest foliage from all the hardy geraniums. All that turned up soil resulting from the violet digging begged for a layer of enriching humus to be dug in. A light dusting of granular pre-emergent seemed warranted to minimize germination of any seeds churned up to the surface.
Dave did the heavy digging and lifting to remove two huge clumps of Dianella tasmanica ‘Variegata’ from behind the rocks of the pool waterfall. They had originally been planted flanking the rock work in 2011 but quickly proved to be incompatible with that full southern sun location. Absent any other place to put them I dug them in behind the waterfall where they got a little shade from the boulders. When I later added some climbing roses to the fence they provided a nice foliage contrast at the base of the climbers–even though I was really the only one who even knew they were there! Fast forward to 2019 and the clumps are so large I have lost all ability to even stand at the base of the roses (wedged up against the back of the waterfall!) to do routine maintenance…and the dianellas, commonly called flax lilies, are still in too much sun to have pretty foliage. The plan was to dig them out, divide and replant in shadier locations.
Dave moved the first one into the shade of the pavilion for me and I set to pulling it apart! This one yield over 60 divisions–plenty for me to replant in my yard and pass along to gardening friends. Much of the literature about dianella indicates that they can be invasive as they spread by underground runners. My guess is that they probably need to be in good rich and moist soil to become a pest. Although my clumps grew quite large over many years each was very compact. The striped foliage of this species makes a nice contrast in areas of predominantly green foliage. Flax lilies bear small clusters of starlike blue flowers, followed by bluish purple berries, on narrow stems held above the foliage–not terribly showy. In a shady area of the replanted front garden I have added a grouping of Dianella ‘BluTopia’ which is a hybrid of Dianella prunina ‘Utopia’ and Dianella caerulea ‘Cassa Blue’–it will be interesting to see how this cousin of ‘Variegata’ will perform in a moister, shadier area.
Each of the back gardens beds in turn will get a little love over the next few weeks. Working early in the morning and in easily managed chunks of tasks I hope to get through everything needing attention by mid-October.
This small poolside bed anchored by a ‘Purple Pony’ ornamental plum needs only a light deadheading of the pink Sunblaze® miniature roses and ground hugging purple Salvia ‘Gleneden’ PPAF. Several large clumps of Aristea ecklonii on the far side were groomed soon after their early summer blooms faded. They are aggressive reseeders and I have learned to remove the spent flower stems religiously after a few seasons of digging scores of volunteers on my hands and knees. Almost done here–I’ll be on to the next bed soon!
I hope you are all enjoying your almost fall gardens–whether you are blessed with actual autumn weather or are just in a fall state of mind.
Proven Winners, one of the 2019 Denver Garden Bloggers Fling’s phenomenal sponsors shared this bit of gardening whimsy with us and graciously gave me permission to share it with you!
I’m calling myself a “5” because my sons, at 39 and 42, are long past standing anywhere I tell them to, so clearly I can’t be a six…the fact that you read this blog puts you at least at a three or four!
Scott, owner of a Boulder landscape design-build company, and his wife Paula have transformed a distressed property in foreclosure into a beautiful and highly functional indoor-outdoor living experience inspired by the fusion of art and nature. Warning–this is another garden whose photos just would not allow me to delete them! A riot of foliage, form and texture makes a statement in its rocky surroundings. The garden is not only filled with art but is home to many specimen plantings whose forms are natural artwork.
This very large piece of crystal (usually only found as one or two of the little ball formations) was hauled back from Mexico by Scott and foreshadows many other unique pieces of art we will see in the Deemer’s home and gardens. This lovely couple graciously opened their home to the Garden Bloggers Fling participants, allowing us to wander through to view their collection of modern paintings and sculptures and soak in the home’s modern mid-century vibe. As welcomed as we were I would not post photos of the home’s interior or art in deference to the family’s privacy. I did take some shots from the balcony off the second story master bedroom and will share those further on.
Only steps from the sleek modern kitchen is an outdoor world the Deemers enjoy through every season. Multi-level living and entertainment areas have been developed with extensive rock hardscaping and lush plantings and large windows on the home’s rear allow almost all of the shallow and wide back garden to be visible from the interior living and kitchen spaces.
The back garden runs the width of the home but not the full depth of the lot which slopes uphill. The Deemers have left a naturalized meadow strip behind the landscaped areas. The home is flanked by two undeveloped lots and the cul-de-sac is adjacent to an open meadow area. The meadow area is a favorite pass through for many types of Colorado wildlife. The massive stones used throughout form a natural feeling retaining wall and soft line of demarcation between the tamed and the wild parts of their backyard oasis.
A massive set of stone steps allow the basement to be accessed from the back garden. The elevation change is significant. Both side of the steps are beautifully planted, again using the stone to create planting pockets. Another twisty blue spruce is perfectly placed to grow as a backdrop for the patio’s grill.
As if the show-stopping fireplace, gorgeous fire pit area and off the beaten path veggie garden is not enough–we’re going to do a deep dive into one of the most well suited for its site pools I’ve ever seen.
The pool was designed to appear as if it is a natural swimming hole occurring in the mountains at the base of a small waterfall. The uphill side rock formations have continued across the width of the garden as does the naturalized meadow wildlife runway. The pool is not treated with chemicals but instead employs a biofiltration system utilizing beneficial micro-organisms to remove impurities.
The photos taken from the master bedroom balcony (visible in the next to last photo) offer a wider view of all of the garden’s elements. They emphasize many of the features of this garden that I find most appealing including the variety of foliage color on both coniferous and deciduous trees, the proximity of all the different entertaining spaces to the kitchen and the ability to have more utilitarian areas (like the veggies) a little bit out of sight but not too far away to work in easily. The most central parts like the fireplace and dining patio aren’t visible due to tree cover up against the balcony. Oh…and the view of the surrounding countryside is fabulous. No commentary needed on these–just take it all in.
As the homeowner is a designer-builder of rock rich custom landscapes it would have not been a surprise if the tons of massive stonework totally dominated this garden, leaving precious little attention given to the plantings. This was not the case and it is clear that much thought was given to careful selection of trees, shrubs and perennials and their placement in relation to the hardscape. A rich and diverse plant palette glows against the stone, softening the hard edges and enveloping visitors as if they have entered a forest. Probably not a garden for a young family with little ones needing running room and lawn for throwing a ball around but certainly a garden meeting the Deemer’s goal of a sanctuary where they can live in harmony with nature and art. For Scott, the landscape is “sculpture on a grand scale.”
Like what you’ve seen in the Deemer’s garden? Go to http://www.outdoorcraftsmen.com to see a gallery of other Colorado landscapes Scott and his team have designed and built.
It is not very often one gets to experience a public garden in its infancy. The Gardens on Spring Creek is the community botanic garden of Ft. Collins, Colorado. It opened in 2004 as a public-private partnership between the City of Ft. Collins and the Friends of The Gardens on Spring Creek. The botanic garden’s vision is stated as “to be a world class botanic garden that is community oriented, educational, experiential and sustainable.”
The Gardens on Spring Creek is in the midst of a two year expansion and renovation project which increases its size to about 18 acres, adds four new themed gardens plus a new, larger Visitors Center. Because of their proximity to the Visitors Center construction we were unable to visit several of the garden’s more mature areas such as the Children’s Garden (2006), the Garden of Eatin’ (2009), the Sustainable Backyard and the Daylily and Turf Demonstration Gardens. We did get to see just how the new gardens were shaping up and for some inexplicable reason I was faintly surprised to see that they look just like our own gardens do at the beginning of their lives–lots of smaller plant material, exposed irrigation systems and bare ground awaiting mulch! I guess I assumed public gardens just spring right out of the parched earth, immediately lush and mature.
THE GREAT LAWN AND THEMED GARDENS
The Great Lawn is a two acre garden with a soaring stage and featuring a half acre of amphitheater lawn seating surrounded by educational themed gardens. Garden Bloggers Fling participants assembled on the lawn for our group photo and had a short time to walk the surrounding areas before reuniting for lunch on the stage.
The asymmetrical roof over the stage is a show stopper. Shade structures similar in style are located throughout the surrounding themed gardens. Raw wood, hefty metal and rock–very Colorado.
A Rose Garden, Fragrance Garden and Moon Garden are newly completed and adjacent to the Great Lawn.
The Fragrance Garden’s raised beds bring the scents closer to visitors. Raw and new now, I can imagine that in a few years when the shade structures are massed with foliage and color this will be an appealing area for young and old alike.
Lonicera reticulata Kintzley’s Ghost® is planted at the base of the metal supports. At first glance to a California girl it looked like eucalyptus but I would later learn it is one of the Plant Select® program which features plants designed to thrive in high plains and intermountain regions. After we returned to our bus I realized I had totally missed a plot dedicated to Plant Select® specimens–a great resource for a local gardener to explore choices well suited to the area.
THE UNDAUNTED GARDEN
In In a daze near Denver…a praire meadow I introduced you to the work of internationally known landscape designer, author and Ft. Collins resident Lauren Springer Ogden. The 3/4 acre xeriscape Undaunted Garden was designed by Lauren and is in the plant installation phase. Named after one of Lauren’s books, the garden will artistically showcase plants native to western North America and non-native plants adapted to grow in drought prone areas. Fling organizers had arranged for Lauren to meet with us in the garden but we soon learned that just a day or two before she had fallen and seriously injured her knee–as we were walking the paths she had laid out, she was having needed surgery. The structure in this garden will act as an outdoor classroom.
From a distance the foliage on this succulent looked almost navy blue and made a striking contrast with its bright green neighbor.
THE NEWLY REOPENED ROCK GARDEN
This unique and naturalistic garden features Colorado native plants and plants adapted to local growing conditions. Dwarf conifers and specialty bulbs are set among the locally quarried rock. It first opened in 2011 and is the largest rock garden in northern Colorado. I readily admit to spending most of my browsing time in this area–it was spectacular and came equipped with a very knowledgeable young horticulturalist, Bryan Fischer, ready to answer all our ID questions. This garden was very well marked but over time plants have wandered about and popped up far from their tags and original sites! Happy plants!
Our time was very limited at The Gardens on Spring Creek. I could have spent a half day in the Rock Garden alone, noting plant names and combinations. I have an irrational fondness for small conifers (poorly suited to my garden conditions) and they were wonderful here in combination with so many other plant forms. I think much of the appeal of the rock gardens I saw in the Denver area is that they lend themselves very well to the personality of a plant collector. While still resting comfortably in the arms of the design principle of repetition of form and color there is always a little spot somewhere to sneak in that plant that could not be left behind!
The current construction phases are due to be completed this fall. You can find more pictures of the ongoing projects and learn about future events and programs at The Gardens on Spring Creek by going to their website http://www.fcgov.com/gardens/ –I’m going to give this developing garden oasis in Ft. Collins a couple of years after that and then schedule return trip. It will be fun to see how the newly planted areas have developed and to be able to see the older gardens not now open to the public.
A large and shady corner lot in the historic Montclair neighborhood of east Denver embraces a 1902 family home. First glimpses reveal broad green lawn with the home tucked quite far back on both sides of the lot.
Landscape architect Wendy Booth of Ivy Street Design worked with the homeowners to transform their shallow back garden into distinct garden rooms with the goal of creating welcoming spaces for family and friends to gather. There is no back garden gate–significant shade is really that offers privacy from the lawns. It feels as if it is all one garden with structures and furnishing defining individual spaces.
The addition of a substantial two sided brick fireplace creates living and dining spaces close to the home’s raised back porch. Multiple umbrellas add to the already shaded space and the rooms are decorated as if indoors. This is one of a very few gardens on this trip where I saw annuals used in any large numbers. The electric blue container of lobelia was one of a pair and drew my attention from the bus window.
The star of this garden dining room is this one of a kind concrete topped table for 12–with a slightly more narrow chair it could probably seat 16 or 18. Homeowner Scott designed the table and had it poured in place. There is a shallow trough with a zinc liner down the center in which to float candles or arrange flowers (chill wine?). Underneath the table a tube allows for the trough to be drained. The Hamling’s table is set for today’s Fathers Day brunch. Scott joked with us that underneath the table is also their designated tornado shelter.
There is a whole lot of living packed into this back garden and all within a comfortable distance from the house making it so much more likely to be used often. Its relatively easy accessibility from the home’s lawn areas makes it a great place to draw in your neighbors from their evening walk. Wrapped in blankets in front of the fire on a night with a bit of a chill or gathered at the huge table playing board games accompanied by wine and cheese–it all sounds great to me!
Over several weeks in June my guy and I worked to get a place ready in the back garden for a long awaited potting bench.
The project has been in my mind’s eye for several years to put in place on this north facing wall which is shaded the largest part of the day.
My heart’s desire was for a bench height workspace to span almost the entire width of the wall–about 16 feet. This back wall is largely unseen from the windows in our most lived in spaces so I could tuck a fair amount of stuff out of view but easily accessed by me without carrying supplies and materials all the way around the house from the garage. The sticking point has been the existing sprinkler valves (visible in the photo) and an in ground water shutoff valve. Over our 34 years of marriage, my sweet husband has always been pretty accommodating about my various schemes and projects for the garden but my casual suggestion that we could simply move these impediments elsewhere was met with stony silence. Even my fallback position of building around them was a no go as it would make them much harder to access when needed. So I marked off space on the wall with green tape to designate the necessary wall to accommodate a pretty standard 6 ft bench which we later upgraded to an 8 foot cedar bench I found on Etsy.
While I assembled materials for a hard surface support the bench–hoping to extend its life by not resting its legs in dirt–Dave removed remaining plants and weeds, dug the area out to accept a base of sand and concrete blocks and graded the area to allow water to move away from the house foundation. I did the shopping.
Not my easiest journey when the pallet holding the stone was too wide for the truck bed and had to ride home resting partially on the open tailgate. The stones weigh in at 108 pounds each for a total of just under 1300 pounds.
Another trip yielded 13 60# bags of sand and some weed block–hoping for a minimum 2″ base of sand for the concrete stones.
The base for the bench measures slightly over eight feet wide and 6 feet deep–enough for the 24″ depth of the bench and adequate space for me to step backward and turn around without falling off the edge! I ordered my bench from Threeman Products, an Etsy store based in Texas, and Charlie answered my concern about having only fractions of an inch clearance on either side by offering to construct the bench at 94″ rather than the standard eight feet. They do each piece as it is ordered so the custom size was not an issue and the three week delivery time would allow us to actually get the base finished and settled in, have our Fish Camp 4th of July, and be home right in time to meet the boxes at the door.
We still have to “redraw” the lawn edge, trim off the extra weedblock and fill some soil in around the edges but the hard work is done. Working with this sized block was challenging but the goal was to have as few seams as possible for weed issues. I am planning to using the raised tin tank as a shady holding area next to the bench.
My potting bench just arrived in two very hefty boxes, weighing in at a combined 90 pounds. I am relieved to see some very specific written directions and assembly diagrams and it appears there are some preassembled sections further down in the box–thank heaven for small favors!
Even though my one temporary one legged status will slow me down, I intend to have the individual pieces stained by Saturday’s end with the larger goal of having my bench in place next week. Fingers crossed.